El Centro

Downtown Puerto Vallarta is the main attraction of the whole Banderas Bay, with lots of things to do and explore. If your last visit to Puerto Vallarta was a couple of years ago, you won’t recognize the city. It still has that old charm, but it has been enhanced with some first-world improvements.

The new malecón is the most noticeable change. It has been totally renovated, closed to traffic, and embellished with big planters full of colorful flowers, bushes, and palm trees. Now you can rent a bike for two or three, and even a stroller or a wheelchair. The malecón extends from Hotel Rosita to the new pier and maintains all the old, well-known establishments as well as the entertainment: street performers, Papantla birdmen, sand sculptures, and many others. Almost all the clubs and bars took advantage of the renovating period to update their businesses.

The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is an obligatory stop in the historic center. Recently it got a new crown and looks splendid over the city skyline. After your visit, relax at the Main Square just one block from the parish where you can eat an ice cream. On Sunday there is live music and dancers performing the traditional danzón.

You’ll spot art galleries all over the city and, in the high season, you can attend an artWalk. From November to April, stroll from one gallery to the next and enjoy local art together with a free cup of wine, a shot of tequila, and some appetizers. The participating galleries are labeled on the outside walls and you can get a free map along the way. Be sure to check ahead on which days you can chat with the artists.

The natural island on the Cuale River with restaurants, a museum, an art gallery, and countless shops and souvenir stands is another must-see. If you want to buy some more crafts at affordable prices go to the Municipal Market on the north side of the island. It has lots to choose from: pottery, jewelry, embroidered clothing, and many food stands.

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Fodor's Puerto Vallarta: with Guadalajara & Riviera Nayarit

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